That image has been shaped, in part, by the eye-catching apparel he has picked for his entrances into stadiums and subsequent postgame news conferences. On Sunday, his outfit was relatively muted, by his standards, but he was still decked out in a notably stylish manner as he fielded questions about getting benched after submitting a disastrous outing during a 33-6 loss to the visiting San Francisco 49ers.
“In no way, shape or form did I put this team in a position to compete, and that’s inexcusable,” Newton told reporters following a 98-yard, three-interception passing performance that left him watching from the sideline as backup Jarrett Stidham finished the game. “This is the National Football League, where a lot is put on the quarterback, and I have to deliver, and I haven’t done that.”
To former San Francisco quarterback Jeff Garcia, an analyst for NBC Sports Bay Area, the issue didn’t appear to be how much is put on the quarterback so much as what Newton tends to put on for his public appearances. During a 49ers postgame show Sunday, Garcia began by criticizing Newton’s on-field miscues before quickly addressing his fashion choices.
“You go into this game [with] two touchdowns, four interceptions. You throw, what, three more interceptions; you get yanked in the second half,” Garcia said. “There’s nothing good going your way.
“Why are you dressing like that, to bring more attention to yourself?” he continued. “I’d be trying to ask the equipment managers, ‘Put me in our jock sock cart and sneak me in the back door, and I’ll show up on the field and do the best that I can.’ ”
“This just goes back to a couple years of just watching this guy and seeing him at the podium,” added Garcia, 50, who played for five NFL franchises and was selected to four Pro Bowls during his career. “But yet what he’s doing on the field does not translate to being that guy.”
Asked on Boston’s WEEI on Monday morning about Garcia’s comments, Newton responded with admirable equanimity.
“You know what’s crazy? I agree with him,” he said of Garcia. “And the fact that he’s a former player, he has every right to say that, and until that happens, then so be it.
“But that’s another opinionated theory, and it’s fair to say,” continued Newton, who won the NFL’s MVP award and led the Carolina Panthers to a Super Bowl appearance after the 2015 season. “I know I come off to so many different people in so many different ways, and that’s fine. You know what? He’s exactly right.
“But,” Newton added with a chuckle, “I’m not changing the way I dress.”
When it was suggested to him that Garcia might prefer he wear something more “somber-looking” after a loss, Newton took a pause before replying, “I don’t know Jeff, but I would say this: I do certain things because of the culture I’m from and where I’m from — I don’t know where Jeff is from, and I don’t want to harp on it too long, but let’s just say, he’s right.”
The opinion on Newton that might matter most — that of New England Coach Bill Belichick — seems to remain favorable. Belichick said after Sunday’s loss that, despite the benching, Newton would “absolutely” remain his team’s starter.
Newton was reminded of that Monday on WEEI but also had it suggested to him that Belichick, maybe more so than most coaches, makes decisions based on performance and might not have patience for more subpar outings.
“You don’t need to tell me that for me to understand that,” Newton said. “I get it loud and clear. … I have to get better, and I’m adamant about it.”
Asked whether he was surprised he was lifted from the loss to the 49ers, Newton replied: “No. I’m a realist.”
Calling himself “coachable,” Newton said he wasn’t offended by the insertion of Stidham, a second-year player who also threw an interception against San Francisco. Newton even said that if he continued to perform poorly, he would merit a full demotion.
“The first thing I said to myself, coming home [from the loss], was, ‘You keep playing games like that, bro, and it’s going to be a permanent change,’ ” Newton told the station.
Stidham, a fourth-round draft pick in 2019, hasn’t performed well in spot duty, and third-stringer Brian Hoyer has long since proved he’s not the answer. In an appearance on WEEI later Monday, Belichick essentially acknowledged his roster lacks a better alternative to Newton.
“I think he’s our best player there,” said the coach, who added that “there are other problems offensively.”
Newton has made a positive impression on Belichick and other Patriots coaches since joining the team in June. By August, Belichick was praising his new quarterback’s energetic personality, and when the coach named Newton his starter before Week 1, other New England players voted Newton a team captain.
Late last month, offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels praised Newton’s “humility,” a word not often associated with the three-time Pro Bowl selection. Newton’s comments in response to Garcia’s criticism demonstrate that quality again.